Xinhua:  Turkey’s retirees suffer inflation pain despite pension hike

With soaring inflation in Turkey that has hit all walks of life, the pain of high cost of living is probably felt most by the country’s old-age pensioners, despite the promises by the government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to “crush the people under exorbitant prices.”  While official CPI is at 36%, expected to jump to 41% in January data, TEAMS survey reveals that the woman on the street “feels” 61% inflation.


“I buy fruits and vegetables at closure time in the neighborhood market because of the cheaper price as sellers want to clear their shelves at the end of the day,” Faruk Ekmen, a 65-year-old pensioner from Turkey’s capital Ankara, told Xinhua.


Talking of his newly raised pension of 4,900 Turkish liras (360 U.S. dollar), Ekmen complained that his pension can barely afford his family’s basic expenses, voicing his concern about the belt-tightening.


According to Municipality of Istanbul monthly poll, 51% of respondents had to cut down on food purchases. The plight of the fixed-wage earners have been exacerbated with heavy snowfall in the Western parts of the country, as temperatures dropped to 3 year lows for January.   Opposition broadcasters have made a habit of interviewing citizens on the street, displaying their gas or electricity bills and complaining about poverty.


Turkey has about 13.4 million state pensioners, 1.3 million of whom receive the lowest pension that rose from 1,500 liras to 2,500 liras at the start of 2022 as a shield from the price hikes. However, it is still way behind the minimum wage of 4,250 liras.


In Turkey, a man can retire at the age of 60 and a woman at 58.


“The price of everything went up last year. Food we could buy with 100 liras then is not comparable to what we can buy today, and the pension hike we experienced in January has already eroded,” said the pensioner Ekmen.


Consumer prices rose by 36.1 percent in 2021, the highest since 2002, amid a serious currency slump in import-reliant Turkey.


“The pension hikes announced by the government have been a real disappointment, and they have been devoured already by inflation,” said Kazim Ergun, head of Turkish Pensioners’ Association.


Senior citizens are left to their own devices with a price hike in electricity and natural gas in January, making life for them even more difficult, he added.


Gas prices jumped by 25 percent for residential use while electricity costs rose between 50 percent and 125 percent for households. Surveys of the general public also show that people believe inflation is higher than the official calculations.


In the meantime, retirees try to make ends meet by resorting to traditional stoves for heating amid a severe cold spell in most parts of Turkey, including Ankara where the temperature plummeted to minus 13 degrees Celsius at night.


“In the past few months, people are asking more for such products because the price of natural gas is very high at the moment. Particularly, there are senior people coming to ask for them,” said Mehmet Tezkan, who sells different types of wood and coal stoves in downtown Ankara.


“Everyone is seeking ways to reduce their budgets of heating, but it’s not easy under the current circumstances,” he added.


Data shared by the Turkish central bank last week showed inflation may soar to 50 percent in January, peak at about 55 percent in May, and then drop sharply in the third quarter and stay at 23.2 percent by the end of the year. ■


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.